Yes, even the City of Suburbs has a downtown—and hidden at its core is a trove of historic hotels, theaters, and commercial buildings preserved from the area’s pre–World War II heyday. Architecture buffs will love it here, as will chowhounds seeking ethnic flavors and movie fans searching for film locales. These highlights are best visited on foot and by day. Area code is 213.
Nothing about the subdued sandstone facade of the Bradbury Building prepares you for its inner atrium, a light-drenched Victorian temple of delicate ironwork and marble stairways soaring skyward. Built in 1893 as a vision of the future, the Bradbury famously sheltered acrobatic mutants in the 1982 film Blade Runner. 304 S. Broadway, 626-1893.
Since 1917, Angelenos have flocked to the European-style Grand Central Market, where some 50 vendors hawk fresh produce, fish, ethnic specialties, and more. Bite into a torta de carnitas (braised pork sandwich), then treat yourself to a Chinese massage. 317 S. Broadway, 624-2378.
A rallying point for preservationists, the 1920s Central Library comes with sculpture-dotted fountains—a perfect setting for a midday break. Don’t miss the historical art exhibits in the galleries upstairs or the celestial-themed rotunda with its 2,000-pound globe chandelier. 630 W. Fifth St., 228-7000.
Inside the Beaux-Arts Biltmore Hotel lingers an aura of past events, from early Academy Awards banquets to JFK’s stay during his presidential nomination. Explore the gilded ballrooms or nibble chocolate strawberries at high tea under the Rendezvous Court’s Moorish ceiling. 506 S. Grand Ave., 624-1011.
Occupying a former haberdashery in the landmark Oviatt Building, Cicada restaurant is as famous for its gold leaf ceilings and Lalique glass as for its splurgeworthy northern Italian cuisine. Not hungry? The upstairs bar offers deco ambience for the price of a cocktail. 617 S. Olive St., 488-9488.
Twelve historic movie palaces—many shuttered—testify to the glory of the Broadway Theater District, where Judy Garland once performed vaudeville and Charlie Chaplin premiered City Lights. A walking tour visits several decadent interiors. Broadway between Third and Ninth streets, 623-2489, www.laconservancy.org.
Photography by David Zaitz
This article was first published in November 2006. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.